Apple iMac (Winter 2009) review: Apple iMac (Winter 2009)

We won't make too much of the fact that the iMac falls behind the more expensive Sony all-in-one and two $1,000 or so Windows desktops on some of our tests. We say this because the iMac's performance is acceptable all-around, and also because it dusted its competition on our multitasking test. The older iMacs impressed us on that test, and by outpacing two systems with Intel's quad-core flagship Core i7 CPUs, this new dual-core iMac sets itself apart as well. Dollar-for-dollar, the iMac is among the best complete PCs (meaning the system and the display) for the way most people actually work from day to day.

In addition to its multitasking capability, one of the hallmarks of the new iMac is an improved integrated GeForce 9400M graphics chip from Nvidia. Apple actually made a bigger fuss about this chip in the Mac Mini, which is now finally a semicapable gaming system. For the iMac, we got it to run Quake 4 at 1,920x1,080 with all of the detail settings turned on, including 4x anti-aliasing. The results weren't 100 percent smooth, but it was certainly playable. You can expect to sacrifice image quality on more recent games like Call of Duty 4.

The iMacs's new default keyboard lacks a number pad.

Among the few other changes to the iMac, Apple has also truncated the default wired keyboard by lopping off the right-hand number pad. If you truly want to minimize the iMac's desktop footprint we can see how this option might have some appeal. Thankfully, you can configure the old, pad-equipped model for no extra charge. That's also one of the few hardware customizations you can make to the iMac. Apple offers an upgrade to 8GB of RAM for an extra $1,000 (an amazing rip-off), a 1TB hard drive for a more reasonable $100 extra, and wireless versions of the mouse ($20), and the keyboard ($30). Sadly, the once standard Apple Remote will also cost you an extra $20.

Otherwise, most of the iMac's core capabilities are intact. You still get a Webcam along the top edge, a slot-loading DVD burner on the right side of the case, and FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet, and audio output and input jacks next to the new ports mentioned earlier around back. Bluetooth and 802.11n wireless networking still come standard. Apple's iLife 09 digital media suite also comes in the box, and that remains a distinct advantage for Apple, as many Windows desktops come with few software extras.

Among the six all-in-one PCs we've tested in our first round of power consumption testing, the 24-inch iMac is an impressive example of what a vendor can achieve when it places a premium on efficiency. Thanks to power economy in every usage state, this 24-inch iMac will cost you less to operate than Dell's slower Studio One 19 and its smaller 18.5-inch screen.

Juice box
""Apple iMac 24-inch  
Off (watts) 0.94
Sleep (watts) 1.6
Idle (watts) 26.7
Load (watts) 127
Raw (annual kWh) 142.7179
EnergyStar compliant Yes
Annual energy cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $16.20

Annual energy cost (dollars)

Apple's service and support policies remain one of its disadvantages, however. The one-year parts and labor policy fits in line with the rest of the industry. The 90-day phone support limit, as always, is subpar. At least Apple's online support site is far ranging and comprehensive, and the active user forums may very well be able to solve any of your problems. You can also purchase various support upgrades, including extended phone support, and assuming you live near one, you can always drag your system into one of Apple's stores.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Apple iMac (20-inch, 2.66GHz, Winter 2009)
Apple OS X 10.5.6; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 2GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400m integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200 rpm hard drive

Apple iMac (24-inch, 2.66GHz, Winter 2009)
Apple OS X 10.5.6; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400m integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive

Dell Studio XPS-122B
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 640GB 7,200 rpm Samsung hard drive

Gateway FX6800-01e
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920; 3GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 750GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive

Sony Vaio LV180J
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS; 320GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Apple iMac (24-inch, 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, Winter 2009)

Part Number: MB419LL/A

MSRP: $1,799.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Environmental standards EPA Energy Star
    EPEAT Gold
  • Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce GT 120
  • OS Provided Apple MacOS X 10.5
  • Installed Size 4 GB / 8 GB (max)
  • Video Memory 256 MB GDDR3 SDRAM
  • Monitor Type LCD
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